Cold Sores: Symptoms, Causes, Home Remedies, and Treatments

Tanuja Bisht

, Health A2Z

Cold sores (also known as herpes labialis) are the small sores, or the blister-like lesions, that appear on, or side of the lips, cheeks, chin, inside the nostrils, and on the gums or the roof of the mouth.


The sores cause pain, itching, or a burning sensation before they burst and crust over.


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What are Cold Sores?


The cold sores also called fever blisters or nongenital herpes simplex infections is a common viral infection.


They are usually, tiny with fluid-filled blisters on and around the lips. These blisters mainly grouped together in patches. When the blisters break it forms a crust over as resulting sore.


These sores usually heal in 3 to 4 weeks without leaving a scar.


The sores can spread from person to person by close contacts like kissing. These are basically caused by a virus known as herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) related to the one that causes genital herpes (HSV-2).


Both the viruses can affect the mouth or genitals. These cold sores are infectious even if a person doesn’t treat it well.


There’s no cure for herpes simplex virus infection, and the blisters may return in few months. But somehow antiviral medications can help cold sores to heal more quickly and reduce how often they return.




What are the Symptoms of Cold Sores?


Many people have the herpes simplex virus but they do not show any type of symptoms. But some of the main symptoms of cold sores include;

  • Lesions, ulcers, or blisters on the tongue or mouth
  • Mouth or tongue pain
  • Lip swelling
  • A sore throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Possible swallowing difficulties
  • High body temperature
  • Dehydration
  • Headaches
  • Nausea




What are the Causes of Cold Sores?


The cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The HSV-1 usually causes cold sores whereas the HSV-2 is usually responsible for genital herpes.


So, either type can cause sores in the facial area or on the genitals. Hence, most of the people who are infected with these viruses ever develop any kind of symptoms and signs.


These sores are most contagious when oozing blisters are also present. But the infected person can transmit the virus to others even if the person doesn’t have blisters.


Shared eating utensils, towels, and razors may spread the HSV-1 virus. Another cause is oral sex that can also spread the HSV-1 virus to the genitals and HSV-2 virus to the lips.


Once a person had an episode of these infections, the virus comes in contact with nerve cells in the skin and emerges as another cold sore at the same place as before.


Some of the common causes of cold sores are;

  • Viral infection or fever
  • Hormonal changes like related to menstruation
  • Stress
  • Exposure to sunlight and wind
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in the immune system




What are the Home Remedies for Cold Sores ?


Following are some of the home remedies for the sores;

1. Lemon Balm:

A lemon balm help in reducing the redness and swelling of a blister. But, symptoms such as pain and scabbing did not improve with the lemon balm. A lemon balm infusion (tea) may also provide the similar benefits as well as help in protecting against the future outbreaks.


2. Ice:

Ice may not reduce the duration of the breakout but can ease the inflammation and discomfort of cold sores. Applying a cold pack directly to the sores to provide temporary relief.


3. Aloe vera:

Aloe vera gel can aid in soothing the skin when a sore breaks out and has several anti-inflammatory properties that can be helpful.


4. Sunscreen:

The sunscreen not only protects the infected while the sore is healing as well as can reduce the future outbreaks.


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What are the Available Treatments of Cold Sores ?


Generally, the outbreaks of sore clear up within 2 weeks without taking any kind of treatment.


Some antiviral and ointments medications may shorten the outbreak’s duration and alleviate pain and discomfort.


1. Antivirals:

The over-the-counter (OTC) antiviral creams mainly help in shortening the duration of a reoccurrence infection. While most creams contain acyclovir or penciclovir that helps in relieving the infection.


2. Treatments to relieve discomfort:

People with the sores can use creams for treating irritation and dryness.


Some OTC creams do not contain antiviral medication. These are only for reducing discomfort.


3. Painkillers:

Mainly painkillers have the ability to help alleviate pain. These medicines are usually available in liquid form for adolescent patients.


Those women who are pregnant and have cold sores should always discuss their treatment options with their doctor.


4. Patients with weakened immune systems:


Patients who have weakened immune systems, such as they are suffering from HIV or AIDS or are undergoing some chemotherapy can face complications due to their weak immune system.


In these people, the infection may spread to other parts of the body and can cause a risk of swelling of the brain (known as encephalitis).


Doctors usually prescribed antiviral tablets to such patients with weakened immune systems.


Moreover, the treatment depends on the severity of symptoms as well as the patient’s medical condition.





As now we all know about the cold sores, before going for the medical treatment we should always try home remedies because the remedies don’t have any kind of side-effects.


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